3 Years Around North America, Plus a Few More

Umnak

Adventurer
Capri Retreat Review Part 1

We’ve had the Capri Retreat for almost 2 months, and have spent about half that time with it on the road in a variety of weather and places. With that, it seems that an initial review is in order.

Cabin on the Road.jpg

Background: Our previous road trip vehicle was a 2006 Sportsmobile Sprinter. We sold the Sprinter after 3 years on the road as we were moving into a permanent residence and wanted something that could take its place and serve as a second vehicle. The idea of a truck camper came from the need for a rig that we could use anywhere we wanted to go, and especially those places we felt couldn’t be handled by the Sprinter. The 4x4 Sprinters that had come to market during our road trip were very expensive and as long as our TN1. 4x4 domestic vans were hard to find and with the whole #vanlife thing having emerged during the past few years, also too expensive.

I drooled over a few Defender 110s with a pop-up but the reality of living on the wrong side of the world from the parts store and mechanics held sway over that decision.
We moved away from soft-sided pop-ups because of the cold and wet conditions in which we will be using the camper for a part of the year. As luck would have it, the truck camper we had hoped to purchase — Pastime — decided to close it doors the week we wanted to place an order. I recalled reading some good things about Capri and decided to give them a call and see what we could build. I’m so happy it turned out that way.

Capri makes unique truck campers and they make them well.

Overview: We like the truck camper, a lot. But it’s not just the camper, it’s also the truck. The 4x4 GMC Sierra with the 6 speed Alison Transmission and haul/tow package is a work horse. And a comfortable one at that. The camper sits nicely on the truck. At 7’ it’s longer than the bed, but doesn’t stick out over the bumper. The truck’s length is 18.5’ which makes two tracks and winding roads simple to maneuver. The camper’s width is perfect for hauling, as it doesn’t require the truck to add extended side-view mirrors. The height of the camper and the truck is just about what we were used to in the Sprinter at 9’6”.

It’s comfortable inside without a table, though I’m not sure it would be with one always in place. There is enough room for me to prepare a meal and have two people sitting on the comfortable cushions provided by Capri. The always made bed is a huge advantage over our Sprinter, whose bed had to be stolen each night from the settee.

Storage is more than adequate for two minimalists like us. We had more than enough space for food and gear on our recent 2 week trip.
Cabin.jpg

Build: The company provides a great deal of options and is very easy to work with. Communication during the build was exceptional, with daily progress emails and photographs. Our Retreat has no shower, water heater, stove top or table. Capri was willing to install our ARB 50 quart fridge and, as it being the first one they had ever done, figured out a good place to put it and keep it viable for easy removal. Options we chose included a 10 gal water tank, house battery, fantastic fan, a few extra windows, and catalytic heater. We also bought a Dometic portable toilet from Capri who has a great storage spot for it when not in use.

Capri offers a number of interior finishes. I chose pecan as it seemed the lightest in color and it paired well with the wooden cabinet doors and walls. The exterior of any Capri can be customized by the owner. Our’s is silver with black stripes and a red accent line. Looks nice on the black truck.

Fit and finish are good overall. Everything is neat and trim. There were a few exposed screw points in storage areas and one of the cabinet doors would scrape the ceiling when the camper roof heated up from the sun ( which seems to expand the roof and ceiling). The overall feel is comfortable and authentic. There are no plastic fittings or molding. The cushions and mattress are of good quality. The Retreat feels solid and weathers rough roads well. It’s also pretty cool looking and has the same puppy appeal as our Sportsmobile did in the first couple of years on the road.

I like the turnbuckle system that is inside the truck bed and camper. We have had no problems with the camper moving on the bed and the lack of external ties and turnbuckles gives a clean look to the rig.

If my math is correct the camper weighs a bit over 1300 lbs, which puts us a little over gvwr, but with LT tires, sway bar and Timbrens it doesn’t impact performance or driving. We are getting 18mpg without the camper and 14mpg with it installed.
Large cabinet, ARB, Wave Heater.jpeg
Counters and cabinets:
The sink is deep and holds everything you need for a sink while traveling. There is sufficient room for our Snow Peak Baja stove — with the propane canister sitting securely in the sink — as well as counter top for food prep. That portion of the counter is hinged to allow access to the ARB fridge, something Capri worked out and executed well. We use the cabinets above the stove for light food storage. A basket below the sink holds drink and food cans.

The large cabinet that would have housed the Capri fridge was built with three shelves, two of which are used for utensils, a pot, pan and stove. Toiletries and other small items take the top shelf. These could hold more if needed, but we hope that doesn’t happen.

A long cabinet with three doors on the starboard side of the camper holds our clothing and some electronic gear. Again, we could put a lot more in these.

Capri has two very simple convenience storage areas as part of their standard build. A small shelf under the large cabinet, which would normally house the Capri fridge, holds the stuff in your pockets during the night. A phone shelf with accompanying 12v and usb ports is a great addition, and increases the sound and especial the base from our iPhones. I do wish the phone rack was placed a bit higher and toward the rear to reduce the chances of banging one’s head if sleeping on that side of the camper. Maybe I’ll move it.
Counter and stove.jpg
 

Umnak

Adventurer
Capri Retreat Review Part 2

Eating and Hanging Out
The Baja stove does a good job, and since I’ve been making one pot/pan meals for the past few years of travel, is all we will ever need. I’ve even figured out a way to make cous cous in the same pan as a stir fry.

Table.jpeg
Our REI small folding table sits easily on the starboard bench allowing us to sit across from each other while eating. As noted above, a large table in this small of a camper would be a hindrance. I would consider a folding table and store it in the space we currently hold our Snow Peak fireplace and grill, but I couldn’t have both, and so we will stick with small bench top table.

The two sitting benches are comfortable for leaning against the starboard wall. The camper is very nice with the heat on and a cup of tea nearby.

Lights:
The led lights are too bright. There are too many of them in the small camper. I’m going to install a switch on the house lights mounted under the starboard cabinet so we don’t have to have so much light! Typically, we use the recessed lights in the sleeping are on in the evening and have seldom turned on the house lights. The kitchen lights are also bright, and provide more than enough for prep and cooking. There is one overhead 110v light that is enough to cover the entire cabin when on shore power.

Heat/Vent
The fantastic fan is a powerhouse. It pulls air from an open window and makes a nice airflow. The Wave 6 heater does the job well, though we seem to have a propane leak somewhere and so I have to go outside to turn it off at the source after warming the camper. I bought some foil-clad insulation to protect the fridge from the heat, and it is surprisingly effective.
Heater Shield.jpeg
Our Sprinter didn’t have any propane service and if I had a diesel truck this one wouldn’t either. An Espar heater would be more expensive but would avoid the potential hazards of propane.

The windows are single pane and easily form condensation. A couple of them are difficult to close but they do close and keep the rain out. I would not order the one that faces the truck’s rear window. It provides no view and just makes the cabin colder. We’ve put the window cover over it and it will probably never come off.

The LPG compartment was a tight fit for the 20lb tank that came with the Retreat. I bought a 10lb tank and am able to store a hose, cord, fire pot and tarp in the space now.
LPG Locker.jpg
ARB:
The compression style fridge seldom turns on, and when it does only takes 10-15 minutes to return to the set temperature, which we keep at 36f. The chest design keeps items colder than what we had in the Sprinter.

If Capri is going to offer installing more ARBs or Engle fridges I would have them consider moving the location of the fridge to the floor, either in the current water tank location or under the bench that houses the portable toilet. That does, of course beg the question as to where those essential items would be placed. I think switching the water tank with the battery, and then moving the battery under the sink could work. A hinged top for the ARB would serve as the step to the bed. This would allow for a much needed drawer under the counter top.

Battery/charger/converter: The toilet came with 6 pages of unnecessary instructions ( I had an employee who sent out a "how to take a dump" email once, he didn't last very long after that), there was no documentation provided for the battery charging systems and converter. I’ve just recently learned that what we were doing to charge the battery — turning the system to the off position while driving — isn’t correct, and now drive with the system in the “on” position. There is no brand name on the charger/converter so I can’t research this issue myself. I’m still not sure what happens when I have the system off and the camper on shore power. I need an electrical engineer, or a couple of pieces of paper. UPDATE: I now know the ways of the switch. Thanks to Expedition Portal member Tom LivinDaDream
Mystery Charger:Inverter.jpg

Sleeping The mattress is great and Eve likes sleeping against the forward bulkhead. I might relocate the phone rack to allow for a more open view from bed by moving our head away from the side of the large cabinet.
bed and phone shelf.jpeg

Tarp vs Awning:
Capri doesn’t include an awning in their option package, and that, in and of itself, is a reason to buy one from them. We slept, ate and hung around under tarps in a rain forest for the past 20 years (and another 10 in the high arctic before that). Capri does offer options for eye bolts attached to the camper. We went the full round and had four installed, two on the back and two on the starboard side of the truck. I’ve been using my 6 ounce 5’x8’ solo tarp to cover the back door and provide a space out of the rain or sun.

We will be doing some winter camping over the coming months and I’ll do a 6 month review in the spring.
 

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Arjan

Paperwork Specialist
Good write up - thanks.

You mention "..turnbuckle system that is inside the truck bed and camper. We have had no problems with the camper moving on the bed and the lack of external ties and turnbuckles gives a clean look to the rig. ...." Could you plell me some more on this, please ? Sounds interesting for a trailer project I have coming up.
 

Umnak

Adventurer
Good write up - thanks.

You mention "..turnbuckle system that is inside the truck bed and camper. We have had no problems with the camper moving on the bed and the lack of external ties and turnbuckles gives a clean look to the rig. ...." Could you plell me some more on this, please ? Sounds interesting for a trailer project I have coming up.
I've attached two images that show the access port for installing/adjusting the turnbuckles and one of the four that hold the camper to the truck bed. The plates above the access port hold the chain. There are similar sized plates installed under the bed of the truck. Very simple and effective, at least for this light of weight. They haven't budged or loosened since installed. Turnbuckle access port..jpegTurnbuckle with chain.jpg
 

Arjan

Paperwork Specialist
Thank you very much !
Sorry for the question - but English is not my native language.
Like you say, a simple but very effective method of securing the unit.
"Mini Twist Locks" are often used here.

Please keep the posting coming - love the read !
 

Umnak

Adventurer
Something Different

The party isn't over, but there is a break in the music.

Eve has decided to take a short term job after 18 months of traveling and settling into our new home. We're going to take a few months off from using the camper, so I removed it from the truck.

I put out a request for a mentor as this was my first attempt at removing and storing the Capri. A retired Coast Guard couple who live near by offered to help. They have a 4Wheel Camper on a Tacoma, and have had a few other (larger) truck campers in the past. Both women were very knowledge and helpful. My neighbor heard about this and asked if he could come along as an observer. The neighbor is a mechanical engineer, so he was figuring out how to reverse the process so he could help with the installation in February or March. We live in a good place.
Cabin at Rest.jpeg

It was pretty easy undo the turnbuckles and start the hand cranking part on the jacks. I used a drill with an attachment that allowed me to lower the jacks fast while the camper was still on the truck. I had the base of the four jacks touching the ground when we went to manual.
I brought two 4”x4”x5’ pressured treated pieces of lumber upon which to place the camper, but at the suggestion of the mentors held off on lowering it all the way. Instead, I used some cinder blocks on their side to support the lumber off the ground.

The truck drives smoother without the camper, and the mileage is better. However, Eve says the difference isn’t that noticeable as a passenger. For me, it is most noticeable in city driving. I’m not sure if I could articulate the difference on a level highway.

So, we are not using the camper, but we have decided to take some trips locally and dig a little deeper into the region.

My first local trip included 3 Washington State Ferries.

3 Ferries and a Floating Bridge.png
The image above shows the route, which essentially starts within a few miles of our house, takes us to Whidby Island then south and over to the mainland at Mukilteo.

Boarding in Port Townsend Waiting - MV Salish.jpeg

No Skating in Clinton.jpegBoarding in Clinton - MV Suquamish .jpegLeaving Clinton.jpeg
From there, its all city driving to Edmonds’ waterfront and the ferry back across Puget Sound to Kingston. I took the back roads to Port Gambell then over the Hood Canal Floating Bridge and back on to the Olympic Peninsula.

Boarding in Edmonds - MV Walla Walla.jpegCar Deck on the Wala Wala.jpeg

It’s about 75 miles of road and took me just under 6 hours, stopping for coffee in Freeland on Whidby. It was an interesting ride and one I’d rather do on a motorcycle or even a bicycle, though in high summer for the light.

Arriving Kingston.jpegHood Canal FLoating Bridge.jpeg
BTW, the Hood Canal bridge at just about a mile long is the longest floating bridge in the world located in a tidal basin, and the third longest floating bridge overall.
 

Arjan

Paperwork Specialist
Good read - any pics of the truck now "naturel" ?

Pity I can't have here in France a good US diesel Pick Up....

Thanks for the write up !
 

Umnak

Adventurer
Gearing up for a 6 week trip to Death Valley and the Mojave.

We plan on doing part of the Mojave Trail and I would appreciate input as to which part; east of the Kelso-Cimo road or west. We've stayed in the Hole in the Wall and Mid Hills Campgrounds, and will probably spend some time there during the trip.

Also looking at the Saline Valley Hot Springs for the return trip. Again, would appreciate input on the south or west road for a lone traveler.
 

Umnak

Adventurer
Half-way through the trip and finally in wifi. We drove 101 from Port Townsend to Sonoma, then headed to Bakersfield for a restock on food. Spent 13 nights in the Mojave and are now at Tecopa Hot Springs on the edge of Death Valley.
Some moments from the last few weeks.
Oregon Coast
Gold Cliff Redwoods
Gold Cliff Trail
Us
Afton Canyon, Mojave
Cabin-on-the Road (Capri Camper and GMC Z71 All Terrain)
Lava Tubes, Mojave
Hole-In-The- Wall Trail, Mojave
Banchee Canyon, Mojave
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duluth

New member
Now that you have had some time in both vehicles which do you prefer overall? Thanks for the great write up
 

Arjan

Paperwork Specialist
Interesting to hear your views on both type of travelling & vehicles..

I'm in the process of either keeping the Land Rover 110 - basically camping inside a hard sides tent - or changing to a 4WD van - like the Iveco 40 10 - with standing height, a bed and a place to sit normally.

To me, it seems that it is almost like to different ways of traveling ?
 

Umnak

Adventurer
Now that you have had some time in both vehicles which do you prefer overall? Thanks for the great write up
We were talking about this over the past few days during a short trip to the west coast of the Olympic Park. We both enjoyed the Sportsmobile Sprinter for overall comfort, the convenience of being able to walk through to the cabin, and mileage (25 mpg). However, the Capri Retreat wins on flexibility -- both literal and figurative, rough road use, and oddly enough, use of space. The month long trip to the Mojave in the Capri was really comfortable and we were able to go places the Sprinter couldn't have ventured.
All that being said, I'd probably look hard at a used walk through 4x4 like a Chinook or Tiger if we get itchy feet again and do a longer trip.
 
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Umnak

Adventurer
Interesting to hear your views on both type of travelling & vehicles..

I'm in the process of either keeping the Land Rover 110 - basically camping inside a hard sides tent - or changing to a 4WD van - like the Iveco 40 10 - with standing height, a bed and a place to sit normally.

To me, it seems that it is almost like to different ways of traveling ?

I agree. We have a 4Runner that we used in Alaska for a trip along the Dempster Highway. It was great with a tarp and a minimalist approach to camping. The Sprinter, or any 4wd van, would allow far more room, less moving stuff in and out of the truck and better protection from weather and animals.

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